MANKATO (AP) -- The plan to shut down driver examination stations in 22 towns around Minnesota, including three in the Mankato area, isn't carved in granite, state officials say.
Meetings will be held in each of the 22 communities to give residents an opportunity to make a case for retaining the exam stations.
The meetings will be completed by June 22, and a decision is expected by the end of the month. The plan will be implemented Aug. 1.
''I guarantee you we'll have some changes in our plan,'' said Brian Lamb, director of Driver and Vehicle Services, a division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. ''So we are listening as well as trying to explain the benefits of our organizational plan.''
The plan, made public early last month, would shut down 22 stations where people can take their written exam and driving test in attempting to obtain a driver's license. Some of savings would be put into expanded and improved services at regional stations in places such as Mankato.
But Lamb said the meetings in the affected communities could result in some of the stations being retained.
''We're not just going through the motions. We're actually going out there and trying to work with the local communities to let them explain what they need.''
Two people who would like to see the rural stations remain open are skeptical that the plan will change much, but they encourage interested residents to attend the meetings just in case.
''It was cut and dried before we ever heard about it,'' said Nicollet County Treasurer Myrna Schoeb.
State Rep. Henry Kalis, who represents Blue Earth in the state House, also wonders if Commissioner of Public Safety Charlie Weaver is willing to reverse the decision to shut down the stations. Blue Earth is one of the affected communities.
''The correspondence we received from him, it didn't seem that way,'' said Kalis, DFL-Walters. ''But at least he's willing to come out and listen.''
Kalis said closing the stations is an economic loss to the communities because it will be shifting another service to a regional hub, causing local cafes and gas stations to miss out on the visits by driving students.
''Anything you can have in a rural area to stimulate the economy is welcome when you have a declining population,'' Kalis said.
The closure of the stations will affect only the driver exams. People will still be able to register vehicles and renew licenses locally if those services are already offered.
The department also is planning to offer written tests to driver education classes in the affected communities if the local high school wants that service.
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